By Kancha Ilaiah
Sep 07, 2011
The recent happenings in Delhi around the issue of the Lokpal Bill have been celebrated by the media as people’s victory, pinned down on Team Anna Hazare. But the majority of the “masses” of this country, living in institutional caste and class enclosures, are not yet part of the “civil society” that the victorious group was talking about.
The so-called anti-corruption movement, therefore, needs to be examined from a multi-dimensional perspective. For example, I see it as a modern Manuvaadi Leviathan’s victory. Manu’s modern disciples walked into the Ramlila Maidan to celebrate the rise of a modern Leviathan, decorated in Gandhi topi.
This 21st century “social” Leviathan walked into the maidan as the enemy of corruption, but he sought to set aside the Constitution (maybe because it was drafted under the chairmanship of a Dalit) and throw overboard the supremacy of Parliament that came into existence to dismantle the fascist social structures that existed for centuries in the form of Varna Dharma. Vande Mataram was its slogan and the national flag (not its own flag) became the symbol of its street power.
Social fascism becomes the reality of a civil society that constructs a moral basis of its own. A middle class like the Indian one, which has erected strong caste enclosures around itself, looks for morality to serve its own interests. Corruption in general becomes a buzzword of condemnation within its day-to-day discourse, despite the fact that it lives with corrupt practices on a daily basis. For example, a middle-class government or NGO functionary does not hesitate to take Rs 1 lakh or more as salary, plus thousands of rupees of honorarium and sitting fees, but that same person would treat a chaprasi, who works for a Rs 5,000 monthly salary, as corrupt if he/she asks for Rs 200 for extra work.
The civil society that led the anti-corruption crusade also does not see corporate houses paying hundreds of crores of bribe money as corruption, but, a minister, an MP or a government official, who takes such bribe money is seen as corrupt because the corporate houses are still in the hands of “their people”, while the political and bureaucratic positions are slipping into the hands of people who are “corrupt by birth”.
Take, for example, A. Raja and Kanimozhi. They are treated as corrupt but the corporate houses that gave kickbacks and took huge contracts at throwaway prices are not treated as corrupt. The same corporate houses and their media boxes have been mobilising civil society of Gandhi topi into maidans to fight corruption.
In an unethical capitalist market like ours, whoever takes more space in English TV channels can portray themselves as clean. That very media can become a source of mobilisation of mobs to define corruption as they want. Any other mode of defining corruption is treated as illiterate rhetoric.
If the chant of Vande Mataram has the power to empower civil society, it also has the power to destabilise democratic institutions that gave life to the poorest of the poor and the lower castes, particularly India’s Muslims.
The high moral ground on which the Hindu middle class stands is a breeding ground for social fascism.
The poor and lower castes have fought huge battles to checkmate saffron social fascists in the last 20 years. Now the same forces have come to occupy centrestage wearing the Gandhi topi. I wish all those who came to Ramlila Maidan in Gandhi topi would also send their children to schools in Gandhi’s dress code. But back home they prefer suits and boots for their children who go to a St. Mary or St. Peter’s, and not to a Mahatma Gandhi or a St. Hazare school. Corruption is not just economic practice; it is also cultural practice. Social fascism does not want us to see that inter-linkage, though it knows that such linkage exists.
Social fascism always lives in duplicity. It uses Sanskrit as its temple language, Hindi for maidan speeches and English as its office language. Hypocrisy is its innate cultural being. It pretends to be simple in public life but its dining table has to have all items that the corporate market supplies with brand names.
Team Anna does not think that the Indian corporate houses are corrupt because they are supplying all the cameras that show them as crusaders out there in the new avatar of Gandhi. The social fascist ideology treats corruption as a one-way process.
Any process of flow of money to the poor and lower castes in the Indian context is treated as a process of corruption or economic waste. But deployment of market prices by monopoly traders that acquire huge margins of profits, without subjecting themselves to state regulations, is not treated as corruption.
Take, for example, all Bollywood heroes and heroines who joined the anti-corruption bandwagon — most are people who evaded taxes.
Team Anna believes that the agendas that have the potential to establish equality among people or at least change the basic life of the oppressed masses need not exist in the national discourse at all. The nation is being shown in the image of Bharat Mata who controlled and manipulated the consciousness of oppressed people for decades, and that image is being shown to the others, minute by minute, 24x7, making them shiver.
Fascism now lives in pucca houses and democracy has been sent to a shed.
Social fascism treats hierarchical ordering of the society as natural. Any economic re-distributive mechanism put in place by the state or a civil society organisation is treated as corrupt and unethical.
When corruption is seen through the glasses of this upper caste middle class, it appears to them that it has a legal solution and that legality is crafted in its own terms. It doesn’t want to understand that the dharma of the oppressor has always worked against the interest of the oppressed.
Social fascism emerges when a nation is in a deep crisis of moral confidence. It formulates itself in the layers of civil society and moves on to occupy the portals of political power. This happened in many countries — Germany, Italy and so on. In all countries where social fascism emerged victorious, it emanated from the fold of middle class that asserts a high moral ground for itself. That high moral ground generally gets established around the theory that it is non-corrupt.
Kancha Ilaiah is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad
Source: The Asian Age, New Delhi